Google buying satellite firm Skybox Imagery for $500 million

Google is buying the satellite imagery company Skybox Imagery for half a billion dollars. Google has used imagery from Landsat satellites for much of their mapping images, though in recent years they've been replacing that with detailed orbital shots from a variety of sources. Adding a satellite imaging company to their portfolio will enable Google to more quickly and accurately update their satellite maps.

The Landsat satellite images that Google has used only resolved to about 15m per pixel, while the more detailed images from sources like Skybox have enabled resolutions of 2.5m per pixel. That's still not quite as detailed as we might like, as much of the up close aerial imagery in Google Maps is taken from airplanes passing overhead, significantly closer than the orbiting satellites.

Google states that buying Skybox will enable them to "help improve internet access and disaster relief". Google has been intensely interested in spreading internet access as of late, going so far as to attempt distributing it via balloons. Satellites, on the other hand, can cover a much broader area than any balloon, and aren't as subject to the quirks of weather. On the other hand, a broadcasting computer or mobile device would require an even more powerful transmitter to be picked up by a satellite orbiting hundreds of miles overhead. In a disaster relief scenario, though, that might just be an acceptable compromise.

Adding Skybox's satellites to Google assets would quite literally be expanding Google's footprint into orbit. What would you like to see Google do with their own satellites, and does anything about that worry you?

Press release:

Google and Skybox Imaging Sign Acquisition Agreement

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – JUNE 10, 2014— Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to buy Skybox Imaging for $500 million in cash, subject to adjustments.

Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox's team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US.

Source: Google

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Excellent! Hopefully this will improve Google Maps coverage in for cities in North Korea!
  • Doesn't matter. We'll never get accurate images from North Korea, because the western imperialist dogs in the US government will force their capitalist cronies at Google to alter the images so that no one learns of the prosperous, thriving culture that Glorious Leader has created in North Korea.
  • yeah you right!
  • I hate swearing, but I fucking love this comment. Posted via Android Central App
  • Haha. +1
  • +1000 Posted via my sixth Sense HTC M8
  • I know North Korea actually is extremely clean and very nice. That being said I wish that Google would be interested in US cellular service. Tired of getting screwed over by the main 4, soon to possibly be three in the US. America has worst cellular than Europe and charges way more for it. If Google work to get into cellular service they would be reasonable so that everybody could afford to use Internet and not have ridiculous phone bills. It's insane when phone companies has profits that are into the multiple multiple billions of dollars every year. Posted via Ash William's Boomstick
  • Ting, Republic Wireless, Freedom Pop, Karma. Take your pick!
  • now Google just has to include real-time traffic in Google Maps for North Korea....
    traffic congestion over there is terrible
  • I want to know what happened to the Dish/ Google partnership that was supposed to open a cellular carrier together. Dish they wanted to have it started at the end of 2013. It has been over a year and a held since any official info or news
  • All Hail Hydra?
  • Skynet and the new world order is coming Posted via Android Central App
  • Didn't we hear some years ago about Google buying their own satellites joint venture.
    Here it is... So why buy these little guys for only 500 million? What's wrong with Skybox, that they can only eek out a measly 500 million when Dr Dre can rake in 3 billion out of nothing at all?
  • Its the same phenomenon that makes Apple worth hundred of billions just for selling a few phones and laptops.Marketing and exposure.
  • No. Does anyone's around here pay attention to economics? Posted via Android Central App
  • Yes actually. I know why companies are worth that they are, but that doesn't stop it being entirely speculative and artificial. Its 'worth' far more than its really worth in any logical sense, more than it could ever generate, more that it could ever materialise. Its fake 'worth' that doesn't exist.
  • It's still worth nevertheless. Posted via Android Central App
  • Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Posted via Android Central App
  • True, but because of shares no one needs to be willing to pay for it in order for it to actually be worth it. Does anyone think that Whatsapp will ever pay for its purchase cost? Even Beats Audio will struggle to ever pay backs its 'worth'.
  • Does it matter? Jesu. You act like big purchases affect you personally. There business matters handled by people specifically paid to handle the numbers. Posted via Android Central App
  • Well it matters if you think most of the money (which doesn't even exist) belonging to 1% of the people makes any sense. Some things are massively over valued for no good reason. Its not just Apple, its Google to. Neither have much material worth. 'There business matters handled by people specifically paid to handle the numbers' Funny that they are the ones worth the money.. Hmmm...
  • *face palm* Posted via Android Central App
  • Do it harder next time, you need some sense knocked into you.
  • You need some sense, you whiney baby lol Posted via Android Central App
  • Oh here we go.
  • Of course it matters. And yes, it affected all of us "personally" when the bubbles burst and the markets crashed.
  • Whatever. Posted via Android Central App
  • I think "a few phones and laptops" may be the tiniest bit of an understatement.
  • Not really. Its all relative. The point being that Apple is worth so much for making stuff that isnt very important, or numerous in real terms. Apple is worth what its worth because people think its a safe bet because its 'popular' and recognisable. Apple could never actually raise its market cap, not even close. Same goes for Whatsapp (and Beats), its value massively exceeds its material or realisable worth.
  • Everything you said is true, but you just described most blue chip companies. I doubt any major global company could raise its market cap. All publicly traded companies are built on a house of cards to some extent.
  • Everyone and his mother has heard of Beats by Dre, and Beats produces a retail product that is easily sold to tons of people at a large profit margin. Skybox is a no-name company that will provide an incremental improvement to an already widely used service. That's the difference (although I still have no idea how Beats was valued at *that* high a price).
  • This. Posted via Android Central App
  • Uh oh.. The name is getting closer and closer to Skynet. C'mon Google, either do it or don't!!! ;) Posted via Android Central App
  • I would like to be able to use my phone as a GPS in the woods, hunting, hiking, and fishing. To see topographic features added would be a huge plus. Tracking and waypoints would be nice. I'm not sure if skybox would help this or not. I'm sure cellular coverage has a lot to do with how fast maps load. More so thank where the maps come from. Posted via Android Central App
  • Hide yo wife, hide yo kids, hide yo husband, Google is buying everything! Posted via AC app from my amazing Moto X
  • I will give them a damn good deal on the wife and kids...
  • Ha Posted via Android Central App
  • Haha I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.
  • This is a fantastic acquisition for Google. Not only will it lead to up to the minute or real time Google Earth, but it will also give them the ability to launch a satellite communications network that will blow these money grubbing isp's away. The days of cell phones at numbered. Next stop? Satellite phones. Posted via Android Central App
  • How are satellite phones going to with inside buildings? Ever tried satellite internet? Good luck with the horrible latency that comes with it.. Voip is horrible over satellite too. I work for dish network and we have tons of spectrum just sitting here. If satellite phones were the future we would be the first to jump on it.. why do you think we convinced the fcc to let us use our satellite spectrum as ground spectrum? This is why dish should buy tmobile and not sprint. Posted via Android Central App
  • Google has specifically stated that they will be launching a satellite-based internet service, so it's likely that they've put some thought into it. It could be that they have an outdoor receiver to communicate with the satellites and then re-broadcast the signal via open standards, like WiFi. I think that would match up with some of the things Google has been up to lately.
  • Big difference between geosynchronous orbit and LEO, heck Google wants to use airships inside earth's atmosphere. As for building penetration, that all depends on the electromagnetic waves and the buildings themselves. Posted via Android Central App- Via HTC One
  • Dish satellites are 22000 miles out there. The lowest I have ever seen the latency was around 750ms so good luck with that. Ive seen 20 mbps download speeds once ao I guess thats not horrible. Posted via Android Central App
  • Dish is geosynchronous.
    As Abionic tried to explain, 400-450 miles is a bit closer than 20,000.
    Low Earth Orbit requires many more satellites, so google is planning something like 180 sats. That means there will always be an absolute minimum of two birds almost directly over head at one time, all of them with a much lower latency than Dish. But google probably isn't planning to go direct to your phone or tablet, but rather to cheap wifi routers.
    Your phone doesn't have the battery power to push a signal 400 miles, and phones (sat phones) that do are big, bulky, and have horrible run times.
  • Ya I just did did some googling and I wonder why dish doesnt do medium orbit satellites. Posted via Android Central App
  • the name 'geosynchronous' means that satellites in that orbit (which is always directly over the equator btw) take almost exactly the same amount of time to orbit as it takes the earth to rotate once, which results in that satellite appearing to be stationary in the sky when viewed from the surface. This allows for relatively simple stationary receivers that only need to be aimed at the satellite once and don't have to be able to move. This is the main reason why satellite TV is a viable business; it would be ridiculously expensive if they had to keep calibrating everyones receivers and replacing them when the moving parts inevitably break. This would also apply to trying to do internet. So if you want to do satellite internet, you need either geo satellites and unacceptably terrible latency and transmitter power requirements or you need a crap ton of lower-orbiting satellites. and MEO isn't going to help either. Notice how short a time your battery lasts if you're using GPS and all that is doing is listening to a signal from MEO, it's not even transmitting. Bottom line: until we can make a much better power storage method than we have today, satellite internet is and will remain viable only in very remote areas and for disaster recovery/military functions
  • I don't know if this is exclusively related to Google Maps... it's probably more related to their desire to bring low-cost internet access via satellites and such. OR Google is about to launch Google Spy Porn. Or Google Paparazzi.
  • Don't think so. Skybox specializes in small imaging platforms that are cheap to launch, cheap enough to put many in Low Earth Orbit, and use off the shelf components. Don't see them being a platform for providing continuous internet services.
  • Skynet is almost here. Looks like they realized their search engine profits are not growing as fast as they used to. Time to find a new revenue source through satellites. Lol. I hope Google uses this to improve their 3D imagery for Google Earth. Apple's 3D Maps still look beautiful and accurate compared to Google's booby looking shapes.
    Posted via Android Central App
  • Yay! Google already spies on what we write and say, and now they can watch us too! Or maybe they will beam ads onto clouds, sorta like the bat signal! Oh the possibilities! Posted via mostly ghost taps on OG N7, in the Android Central App, therefore posts may not be my own.
  • Android Beam 2.0?
  • Careful, big brother will be watching..... Posted via Android Central App
  • Internet everywhere starts now! Posted via Android Central App from my Ebony backed Moto X
  • Google will buy out a car company one day and then Walmart.
    Posted via Android Central App
  • Google have so much money...... Posted via Android Central App
  • Magnifique!Google veut savoir toues les informations.Google est un grand magasin qui vend toutes sortes de marchandises,par exemple,</a href="">coque iPhone 6</a>,téléphone ect.
  • Autostart 6 Sat